There is thread already on this topic, but I confined itself to the question of what to do with start cards. In this one I have the ambition to give a complete recommendation for what to pass, whatever your hand is. In later rounds, there are some general guidelines, but for the most part what to pass is obvious based on the board position. Give your partner a card that lets them score or kill an opponent's pawn. In the first round the setup is always the same, so tactics can be "pre-canned" and used every time.
The other thread comments in more detail about what to do with the start cards you're dealt. I will summarize. If you are dealt zero start cards, obviously that's not what you pass. If you are dealt exactly one start card, keep it. If you are dealt two or more start cards, then pass one of them.
That still leaves the question of which one you pass, if they are different. There are three cards that can be used to start: 1/11, 13, and ?. If they all end up getting used to start pawns, it won't matter. But there is a possibility they will get used for a different purpose. You'd like for the "best" one to get used for a different purpose, if any. So the first question is which one is the best one. Clearly ? is superior to the others, because it may be used as either. I would say 1/11 is superior to 13, because having options is worth more than an extra 2 spaces forward.
If you have exactly two start cards, pass the "best" one. If your partner has zero or one start cards, you'll be left with only one, so if you keep your best one, it gets used as a plain start card. If your partner has two or more, then your partner can use the "best" one in its whole range of uses. If you have three or more start cards, pass the "worst" one. If you pass a better one and your partner was dealt no start cards, they'd have to use it for a start. If you keep your best you have the whole range of options.
Besides a start card, what other cards do you want to have in your hand? This depends a little on your turn position for the first round. The start player and the last player have a little different requirements than the middle players.
- Two cards that add to 12, for players 1,2,3. This is defense in case the player to your left plays a -4 on the second turn. They play after you, so you will already have played one card forward. Then you can play the other in the 12-sum pair and stomp them.
- Or any card 5-11, plus a 7, will serve the same purpose.
- 12, for player 4. Player 4 is the only player who plays after the player to their left, so their only chance to stomp a pawn that moves back 4 is to move 12 spaces at once.
- Two cards that add to 17 or more, for players 1,2,3. If you can't or don't need to stomp a pawn that moves back 4, you'll want to move past the opponent's start space. If you don't move by in the 3rd turn, they can possibly put another pawn out on their start space and block you. For player 4 there's no chance to get by in time.
- A swap, for players 1 and 4. Player 1 will have the opportunity to swap with their opponent player 4 onto their home stretch. Other players might not have that opportunity if their right opponent moves fast enough. Player 4 is likely to need a swap if they get blocked. For any player, swapping with your partner in the first round is nice, but that doesn't affect the pass, because either partner can play the swap.
- Other individual cards are nice, but not particularly more useful to one player or another.
You'd like you and your partner to have all these things, if possible.
- First, decide what you will keep. If you have a pair of cards that add to 12, or a 12 itself if you're player 4, keep those. That's true even if you don't have a start card. You hope your partner will pass one.
- If you can nearly guarantee to give your partner cards to clobber an opponent who moves back 4, do it. That means if your partner is player 4, give a 12. If they are any other player, give a 7 if you already have your 12 sum.
- If you don't have a start card and your partner is player 1 or 4, give a swap. But if you have a start card, you want to make sure this powerful card doesn't go to waste if your partner doesn't get to play.
- Only if you have a start card and are not player 4, try to keep a pair of cards totaling 17 or more. One of these must also be in your pair that adds to 12, since you'll play one of those on your 2nd turn. That's always the case if your 12-sum pair contains an 8 or higher. If you didn't already have that card in mind as part of your 17+ pair, it can be, combined with the larger of the pair you had in mind, which must be at least 9. Only if your 12-sum pair is two 6s, or you plan on using a 7, might you have a problem still getting past 17 in the 3rd turn. In that case, don't reserve your high card if it will not be sufficient for you.
- If you don't have a start card, you might not get one, so give a high card in the hopes that your partner will have 17 or more. Exception: your partner is player 4.
- If your partner is not player 4, after reserving your sum of 12 and conditionally your sum of 17+, prefer to give cards in this order: 10, 9, 8, 6, 4, (2, 3), 12, 5. All but the last two might help your partner clobber a player who moves back 4. 5 will only work in such a pair with 7, and if they have a 7 they probably can do it anyway. All but those in parentheses could help your partner get a total of 17 or more, with higher ones giving a better chance. Swap the order of those in parentheses if you don't have a start card, with the idea that it's slightly better to waste a 2 than a 3.
- If your partner is player 4, always try to reserve a sum of 12 and a sum of 17. Then prefer to give cards in this order if you don't have a start card: 7, 4, 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, 3, 2. The idea is to give your partner the best card, since you might not get to play it. If you do have a start card, prefer the opposite order.